The only Austrian I know


Olfactoria’s Travels was one of the perfume blogs I was always instinctively attracted to. There was humour; there was intimacy, and there was immediate, and beautiful writing. And the writer, a person I knew nothing about, named Birgit from Vienna, was not even writing in her first language (which I always found  SICKENING, because to be honest, although I can ‘speak’ some foreign languages, myself, I will never even come close to being able to express myself so naturally, and so exquisitely, in any foreign tongue the way that she so effortlessly does; nowhere near).

When I started The Black Narcissus, and no one was reading it, and I was somewhat despondent, as I couldn’t quite see the point in continuing it otherwise, because in that case you are just addressing a void, for some reason I intuitively one night decided to write to this mysterious woman in the land of Freud before I contacted anybody else, and asked her ( rather desperately, and dramatically, I have to say), for advice. She responded immediately, and very sweetly,  suggested I do some guest posts for her (and I did, a whole Vanilla Series), and as a result, I started to finally receive some visitors on the blog (and before you know it was invited to do the Perfume Lovers London talk on vanilla, a still from which you can see here in this picture taken two summers ago, if I am correct, though it feels more in truth like it was a lifetime).

We met; we looked each other in the eye, and it was, I have to say, a bit like Vertigo. I was somewhat awed, even quite bashful, that she had come all the way from Vienna just to meet me (and had decided to give me a vintage Shalimar extrait as a ‘souvenir’); that she was so self-deprecating, while contradictorily bathing all the same in her own inimitable golden glow.  In the pub around the corner afterwards,  where I think I bought her some prosecco or something sparkling (though I could of course be quite wrong as there had been gin, and beers and the whole thing was getting rather boozy during the evening beforehand), I know that  we were talking about psychology, and perfume and various other aspects of our lives, both quite strangely intimately dark and light; there was a depth (and dare I say it,  Birgit, even almost mystical – for such a brief encounter –  connection). Of course I was projecting my own Hitchcock Blonde obsessions onto you, probably (no: definitely), but I do have to say that I felt that you had a presence that can only truly be described as shimmering. So dignified, and Mysterious. A touch sad, perhaps. Gilded; intelligent; and beautiful.

This is a picture of us both here, meeting for the first time. At the end of the evening, a  I began to properly recover  from my nerves ( I had been hySTERICAL, as anyone who was there will gladly testify) and when I was able to finally enjoy and gloat in the truly pleasurable feeling of recovering from the trauma of my first dose of real public speaking; meeting new friends;  bonding over scent, and truly delighting in the late summer London moment. In this photograph here I was definitely properly starting to unwind a little. We had just met. But I definitely felt that there was some connection.



Birgit, thank you for everything, and the very best of luck for the future.

And if I am ever in Vienna, I hope that we can go out for coffee and Viennese swirls; spray the perfumes at Hermes; and continue our conversations in some wintry, dream-laden, statued; snow laced; and out-of-the-way city park.


Filed under Flowers

14 responses to “The only Austrian I know

  1. Neil, what can I say after this amazing tribute? I am deeply touched. And you are right, there was a connection right from second one, I could have gladly spent all night talking. I hope we get the chance to do just that some day. You are somebody I admire deeply, your intellect is almost frighteningly brilliant and your capacity to feel deeply across the range of emotions is boundless and this is what makes you glow. Hugs.

  2. jennyredhen

    What a beautiful woman, what beautiful photos and a beautiful story. as well.

  3. jennyredhen

    I found this blog by googling Salvation Amy op shop Tokyo as my friend had told me how amazing it was. Thats how I stumbled over the Black Narcissus..

  4. I think I found this blog very near the beginning of it. The post was wonderful to read and the photo is great–two very beautiful people!

  5. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose


  6. Lady Jane Grey

    Neil the Charmeur ! Where is the LIKE button ?

  7. veritas

    I was one of those who found you on Birgit’s weblog.

  8. Zubeyde Erdem

    I’m totally agree with all Olfactoria that wrote about you. Honestly happy to listen this cheerful composition but I don’t understand why I’m feeling jealousy at the same time. ( I guess it is because of my Middle East roots we don’t like to share our dear ones with others 😄😄😄)

  9. What a beautiful homage to such a lovely woman. You can just see the warmth emanating from her in the photo. What a fabulous experience you had in making her acquaintance. I also am in awe of anyone who can express themselves so freely in a foreign tongue. I speak many languages, yet I know I cannot express myself so easily in all of them. I guess you need to use them or lose them. Great post truly.

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